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Canada-bound Cuban jets get nod to fly over U.S.

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The United States reluctantly has changed its airspace restrictions to allow Cuban jetliners to fly over the eastern United States en route to Canada, starting Friday.

While U.S. planes have long flown over Cuba on their way to the Caribbean and South America, U.S. officials have denied almost all reciprocal rights to and from the communist nation since the 1960s, citing national security concerns. As a result, Russian-made Air Cubana jets have flown a circuitous route to Canada just off the East Coast.The U.S. no-fly rule for Cuban planes was eased in 1988, when the United States allowed Cuban jets to cross land at New York City and approach Toronto and Montreal over upstate New York. The planes have also been allowed to cross land in bad weather or emergencies.

The administration agreed to a further relaxation this week after it became apparent the United States would lose a complaint Cuban officials filed in 1996 with the U.N.'s civil aviation arm, said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.